I keep seeing this Bernard Black clip around and it always cracks me up. We've all been there, and as long as we keep on writing we'll all go there again. Thank goodness for Laughter! And wine.
Of course, following my recent good news (blah blah, etc.), I’m feeling slightly braver about the dreaded R word right now, though only slightly. I can’t stop thinking about the many editors who said NO. But before you roll your eyes at this (and in keeping with my new warts-n-all approach to blogging), please hear me out. The fact is, having had time to mull over the whole submission process for my novel, I now see that I did something very stupid. So, Writer, let what follows be a warning to you.
My agent sent my ms out to nineteen individual editors. Some simply weren’t interested, and some didn’t even respond, but a good dozen or so gave thoughtful and informative responses to read while I fumbled with the corkscrew. Looking through those again I have spotted a theme, and I now finally understand something that people have been saying to me for a long time. Namely that you really can’t afford to submit work that isn’t as strong as you can possibly make it. Or in other words, if you feel that something could be improved in your own ms, for heartburn’s sake do something about it before you screw up your chance with an editor!
Several editors came close to actually spelling that out to me in their rejections, with comments such as “positive, positive, positive …but I just don’t have the time to work with the author on… example, example, example”. It’s the reference to lack of time that says it all. Why submit something that an editor thinks they’ll have to spend loads of time on?
Of course, it’s one thing to do this if you don’t realise you are doing it, but the point is I knew there was room for improvement and went ahead anyway. Why? Well, because I suppose my head had never really left 2006, when showing strong potential was still sufficient to interest a publisher. This was back when publishing was still confident and bullish (and solvent!) and when mid-listers could still be regarded as bestsellers waiting to happen. You know, back before hundreds of editors were made redundant and when bookshops could still paper over the cracks and smile.
You don’t need me to tell you that 2010 is a rubbish time to approach publishers, but it can’t hurt for me to say this: it’s never been easier for an editor (or, by extension, an agent) to say no. Therefore, it’s never been more important to avoid giving them obvious excuses to say it! Even if this does mean many months of extra work.
And after all, 2011 might just be better. Let's drink to that.